A news story caught my eye regarding a weird, cryptic note folded up and found inside an unopened cereal box.
A TV station in northeastern Pennsylvania reported the story on December 26, 2023 about a man who poured out some Lucky Charms from a new box and the paper fell out. He was understandably unnerved by it and didn’t want to eat the cereal, even though it showed no obvious contamination. While the man appeared to assert that the note was inside the sealed bag, this isn’t entirely clear. It could have just been inside the paper box.
The reporter noted that “notes like this are showing up in all types of food products from numerous grocery stores around eastern Pennsylvania and beyond.” That is correct! I’d not heard of this before, but I found several incidents, primarily from central-eastern PA, from the past 3 years.
The notes are sufficiently similar to conclude they have a common origin. The reason for the notes appears to be to “warn” or inform people of concerns about “Secret Societies” and “lies” being spread through society.
Reports about these messages were first revealed by the Schuylkill County news blog, The Coal Speaker, in April of 2020, which appears to be the geographical area where the first messages appeared during a wave of paranoia about the Covid pandemic. The notes are now sometimes called the “Schuylkill Notes”.
The Coal Region Canary, another awesome local news blog, continued coverage in June of 2020:
The location of the messages seemed random with one exception. Its appearance in a box that contained a bottle of infant Tylenol was too creepy considering the Chicago Tylenol murders from 1982 that remain unsolved. The medicine bottle was reportedly intact.
For the most part, finders reported that the notes were inside the boxes, not inside airtight seals.
Other examples of food boxes with the schizophrenic printed text include pasta, dog food, cake mix, candy, PopTarts, cookies, and Lunchables. The list grows daily as people add their incidents.
Redditors reported they found similar notes in the pockets of clothing purchased at retail and thrift stores, in packs of gauze bandages, on the floor in a hardware store, and pinned to trees on walking trails.
It’s also not the first time someone found one in Lucky Charms. It’s nearly impossible to keep track of all the variations reported.
In June 2023, The Coal Region Canary revisited the story and stated that people were still finding the notes in random products and locations in central PA but also in adjacent Ohio and Maryland.
The wording of the message has changed a little bit. The Coal Region Canary writer, helpfully, typed it out and even tried to run it through ChatGPT to make some sense of it:
Yikes! OK, then… That’s unhelpful. This gibberish does not appear to be inciting violence, but the writer does not seem well-adjusted. At. All.
Skeptical Inquirer writer JD Sword had a friend from central PA who found one of the messages. He researched the rash of incidents, and even successfully replicated inserting a paper of similar size and thickness into the same box (of Lunchables).
For nearly four years now, someone, or more likely multiple people, have been distributing messages or tampering with product boxes to insert the writings. The randomness suggests it’s not a highly coordinated “inside” effort of anyone in a factory, warehouse, or store. The claims of the messages being in entirely “sealed” packaging has not been confirmed. Sneaking the papers into products carries the risk of legal action under product tampering laws. It is surprising no one has been caught. No harm has been documented to have come from any of the incidents.
Had I to guess at what’s happening here, I would suppose a small crew of disturbed QAnon followers in the eastern US are trying to inform us about what they perceive as evil dangers in society. In a way, they have achieved that, but not the way they intended.
Update: 3 January 2024. More people are reporting finding the messages across Pennsylvania. After attention was resurrected recently on these items (that have appeared in various places in PA and Ohio over several years), more reports are been made to police. A Harrisburg news outlet, WTAJ, reports that lawmakers are aware of the cases of product tampering and the US Food and Drug Administration is involved. Whoever is inserting the folded papers into sealed food boxes may be facing federal charges if caught.
Story continues at Mysterious Schuylkill notes saga continues (27 Jan 2024)